Urban – Rural Interaction: Contribution from the Municipality of Groningen IABR 2014


27 mei Urban – Rural Interaction: Contribution from the Municipality of Groningen IABR 2014

For a thousand years, the city of Groningen, currently home to a population of 200,000, has occupied a strategic position at the end of the Hondsrug (a sandy ridge stretching from the Province of Drenthe almost to the sea). Down through the centuries, the city and countryside have had to rely heavily on one another. And that is still the case. Food and energy are conveyed to the city and the rest of the world, where they are traded. Optimum transport is a ­basic precondition for such activities. In this framework, the city and countryside are continuously rediscovering themselves: as living archives, as a laboratory, and as a workplace where spontaneous innovation continuously occurs. It is a location where education, entrepreneurs and (local) government inspire one another on a daily basis. The Groningen contribution to the IABR is the result of a quest to chart this metabolism.


The urbanization of the city and the surrounding regions is ­traditionally based on the ­position of the city and the transport of energy and food to the city and beyond. On the back of increasing mobility and sub­urbanization, ­human transport has become ­progressively more ­important. A strong city in a robust region has proven to be a successful formula over the years: we have a compact city in a rich assortment of surrounding landscapes. Groningen, as the locals say in dialect, is ain pronkjewail in golden raand (‘a shining jewel in a golden frame’).



Since the end of the Second World War, the municipality has made ­several radical interventions in the metabolism of the city. In 1977, the visionary ­Traffic ­Circulation Plan largely ­banished car traffic from the city ­centre, which consequently became the domain of the cyclist and ­pedestrian. With the systematic development of an urban and ­regional ecological main structure in subsequent years, the development of the city acquired a completely different set of dynamics: more organic growth with respect for, and reinforcement of, the ecological and historical structure of the region, and less ­rigorous intervention in the landscape for housing projects.


A characteristic feature of the City and Countryside is the ­capacity to consistently r­ediscover itself as an entity, as has been the case for no ­fewer than a thousand years. Now, in 2014, this has become a mainly bottom-up process: there is scope for initiative, experiment, innovation and creativity. The bio-based economy forms an impulse, as well as an ideal opportunity to enter a new phase. Large and small transformations have ensured that the city has remained vibrant and vital: a living, creative city in which people feel at home and in which commuters, tourists and other ­visitors can work and relax in stimulating surroundings.

…Living Lab

This summer, in and around ­Groningen, there will be ­several comprehensive presentations of inventorying analyses and ­design studies, which will form the ­basis of the contribution to the IABR exhibition in Rotterdam. They will involve local designing ­sessions to test interventions in the metabolism. These ‘living labs’ ­demonstrate the way in which ­people in Groningen are engaged in trying to gain a deeper understanding of this urban metabolism, with the aim of taking steps to realize a more sustainable future in an appropriate way.

The starting point is a more ­extensive main exhibition with presentations of the past, present and conceived future of the eight IABR themes related to the top sectors. What is happening where will be shown on an interactive chart of the city. In addition, there will be app-driven visits to relevant locations: places where research is being performed on the functioning of the various metabolic processes, where proposals for transformations and other interventions are being formulated, where interventions are actually being made in real processes, and new techniques are being tested. In this configuration, both the municipal and the regional ­governments provide a platform for knowledge institutions and ­enterprising private people to make a contribution to thinking and working on a better metabolism for the City and Countryside.

Photo: Urban Rural Interaction. (detail)
Credits: Shootmedia/VentoBoreale

  • Reflecting on the IABR contribution from Groningen : Urban.Gro.Lab
    Geplaatst op 14:32h, 14 juli

    […] had been interpreted by others. But most of all, the delegation was interested in reactions on the Region’s contribution. Therefore, a lunch symposium had been organised in the Natural History Museum across the street […]